THE CASE FOR
that appeared in Hotel & Restaurant
• October 2005
• Issue 47
Reproduced with kind permission.
A new wine preservation system has been
attracting a lot of attention from hoteliers
and restaurateurs in Johannesburg and Cape
Town. Andrew Starke discovers what it does and
what the customers think.
Stanbury (centre), sales director of
Imvusa Technologies, with Brendon Crew
and Jean-Yves Muller, co-owners of Cape
Town's Caveau Wine Bar and Deli.
Wine and the creation of a winelist are
often problematic issues for restaurant owners
or hotel managers who may not have an
overwhelming passion for the fruit of the vine.
Chief amongst their concerns is often how to
provide for those customers who, for whatever
reason, want to purchase their wine by the
One cannot really blame restaurants for
predictable offerings of wine by the glass, but
most customers do not understand that there is
no margin in opening a bottle of Meerlust
Rubicon (R795 per bottle on some restaurant
winelists) for one glass, when most of the wine
will ultimately have to be thrown away before
it becomes vinegar.
The stakes for many restaurants have simply
become too high for them to "cork-up and hope"
and they are being aided by various wine
preservation systems. Wine-lovers are demanding
a wider variety of wines by the glass and are
unlikely to be forgiving if what arrives in
their glass is anything less than perfect.
The age-old problem for wine bars and
restaurants is that, as soon as a cork is
pulled, the battle between oxygen and wine
begins. This results in the gradual conversion
of alcohol to acetic acid (vinegar) and the
role of any preserver must therefore be to halt
or slow down this reaction in the bottle.
Clearly such methods are needed to address
the perception that too many South African
restaurants serve wine that it is of inferior
quality, badly stored, served at the wrong
temperature, oxidised and poured by people who
haven't a clue what it is.
If global trends are anything to go by, then
many of these problems can be partly or
completely solved by preservation systems like
the Le Verre de Vin (“glass of
wine” in French), first launched in the
UK 10 years ago and now available in South
Traditionally wine preservation systems have
followed one of two methods. The first method
is to create a barrier between the wine and
oxygen (gas-based systems), while the second is
to simply remove the oxygen from the bottle
(vacuum-based systems). Gas-based systems
displace oxygen in open bottles with argon or
nitrogen while the vacuum-based variety sucks
all the oxygen out, creating a vacuum before
the wine starts to turn.
According to Ernest Stanbury,
sales director of Imvusa
Technologies, the local agent for the Le
Verre de Vin system, international experience
has shown that wine and champagne sales
increase significantly, by volume and value,
once the preservation system has been
By way of an analogy, he compares the local
coffee market of 15 years ago to the wine
market of today. These days it is almost
impossible to find a restaurant or hotel that
doesn't offer cappuccinos, espressos and lattes
in a variety of forms and it is worth noting
that the equipment involved in producing these
products costs much the same as the Le Verre de
Stanbury says that there was a "totally
negative" response when an attempted launch was
made into the South African market four years
ago. However, he has been encouraged by the
feedback he has received from the industry this
"The top establishments we have spoken to
all acknowledge that the global trend of
serving premium wine-by-the-glass is upon us,"
he said. "They are very excited by the Le Verre
de Vin wine preservation system because today's
wine-drinking consumer is more inquisitive and
demanding than ever before and is willing to
trade-up to better quality wine-by-the-glass.
Key to stimulating this demand is to be able to
offer an enticing range of wine-by-the-glass,
delivered fresh from the bottle."
The system is currently available at R25 000
excluding VAT and includes the preservation
machine, the gas regulator for preserving
champagne with C02, 10 wine stoppers and three
champagne stoppers. The gas cylinder required
can be hired from Afrox.
"A restaurant serving merely 40 units of
wine by the glass per day would pay back their
machine in six months," said Stanbury. "The
business case becomes effective when catering
establishments implement an innovative wine and
champagne by-the-glass menu. A restaurant in
Gauteng generated R20 000 in one month from
their new wine-by-the-glass menu. They also
measured their normal house wine sales and
bottle sales. Neither of these diminished in
Verre de Vin: a low-maintenance and
easy-to-use wine preservation system.
The Le Verre de Vin system was invented and
launched in the UK in 1992 after two years of
research and development by a team of engineers
and wine professionals. The technology involved
has won full patent status in all the major
wine markets around the world. There are
currently over 17 000 installations of the Le
Verre de Vin in the UK, Europe and the USA.
To date it appears that this success is
being replicated in South Africa with an
impressive list of hotel and restaurant
managers either in the process of considering a
purchase or singing the praises of the product.
Amongst its selling points are simplicity of
use and easy accommodation, enabling even a
small bar to offer still and sparkling wines
and champagne by the glass.
Le Verre de Vin has even impressed the wine
experts of Decanter, a British wine magazine,
who named it the top overall wine preservation
system. The magazine stated: "A vacuum system
works well when a regular, optimum vacuum is
produced on each use."
However, it questioned claims that any system
is able to preserve wine for 21 days, finding
that the quality of the wine being preserved
begins to fall away after nine days. It
concluded that some of the wines might have
been drinkable after nine days, but that they
certainly were not up to restaurant or wine bar
While Fiona McDonald, editor of WINE, a
sister publication to Hotel & Restaurant,
sees the heightened local interest in wine
preservation systems as a trade, rather than a
consumer issue, she is nevertheless excited by
"WINE supports innovation which means the
wine consumer has a broader selection of wine
by the glass," she said. "I wish more
pubs/restaurants and hotels would install
systems such as this. When you go to a place
like Caveau or Belthazar in the Waterfront and
you see what it's possible to do - and how much
you can offer the consumer - it's
Jean-Yves Muller, co-owner of Cape Town's
Caveau Wine Bar and Deli was one of the first
in Cape Town to buy the machine.
"The wine bar phenomenon is growing rapidly
internationally, but to offer a wide selection
of good wines an effective wine preservation
system is crucial," he said. "Thanks to the Le
Verre de Vin we are now able to offer over 60
still and sparkling wines by-the-glass, with
prices ranging from R14 to R60 per glass."
The Meat Company in Melrose Arch,
Johannesburg, was the first restaurant in
Gauteng to purchase the Le Verre de Vin.
Manager Nic Veringiro said: "There is a growing
demand from our customers for a wide selection
of premium wines-by-the-glass. The concept is
new, but is catching on fast. By using the Le
Verre de Vin we can now confidently offer our
best still and sparkling wines by the glass.
And we have no wastage at all."
Another convert is Kent Scheermeyer, the
F&B manager of the Grande Roche Hotel in
Paarl who, after testing the machine, said:
"This preservation system is fantastic, I will
not even consider functioning without it in the
future, we have to have it!"